Experience has taught me the art of getting lost. Obviously with a phone in my pocket, it's not that difficult to find out where I am, but it's only on wandering around a new destination that you stumble across some fascinating people and places.
I had fully expected my weekend in Liverpool to be subsumed in a mix of Beatles music and football memorabilia, and yes, they played a part. However, on getting lost, my trip took an unexpected turn when I discovered the largest Chinese Arch outside of China and the oldest Chinese community in Europe.
The Arch marks the Chinatown area of the city. The first Chinese arrived in the 1830s to trade silk and cotton wool. This led to the development of formal trade links and the growth of a mini industry to cater for the Chinese sailors. Nowadays, the area is a thriving community and is wonderful for a walk around.
The docks and warehouses these original sailors or merchants would have used are still in place today. Built in 1846, Albert Dock was revolutionary for its time as ships could load and unload directly into the buildings.
Today, the only items loaded or unloaded at the dock are the millions of tourists who visit annually. Albert Dock is central to Liverpool's Unesco world heritage status and houses museums, restaurants, hotels and galleries.
One such museum which caught my eye was The Beatles Story. The exhibition holds recreations of the Cavern Club, Abbey Road Studios and The White Room amongst other Beatles memorabilia. The very detailed audio guide tells the story of the group and their musical journey.
After visiting the exhibition, aficionados usually step on board a Magical Mystery Tour which whisks travellers to the Beatles' childhood homes and significant places made famous in song like Penny Lane and Strawberry Field.
The tour ends at the Cavern Club, which offers live music from 11am to midnight eight days a week. The nearby Hard Days Night Hotel offers a more sedate atmosphere to enjoy local singers and songwriters.
As you walk around the city, the St Johns Beacon seems to always be in your eyeline. The structure was originally a revolving restaurant. These days, the local commercial radio station, Radio City, occupies the top of the tower and visitors can go to a public viewing gallery to see the city.
We travelled with Stena Line between Belfast and Birkenhead. The Stena Edda has recently been introduced on the route, redefining ferry travel on the Irish Sea.
The vessel has state-of-the-art passenger facilities, including the Hygge Lounge, the atrium and Sky Bar and the Stena Plus lounge, which includes complimentary beverages and a waiter service.
Birkenhead port is just a few minutes' drive from Liverpool city centre using the Mersey tunnels. If you are travelling further afield, the port is minutes away from England's motorway network.
Book a two-night break with Stenaline to Scotland, England or Wales with return ferry travel by car included from just £125 per adult sharing. Sail on any of the four Irish Sea routes to Britain with your car, and a companion in tow, and enjoy a two-night stay in 3, 4 or 5-star accommodation. Offer includes:
Visit www.stenaline.co.uk/hotelsale for more information.
The perfect base from which to explore the city of Liverpool is Staycity Aparthotel.
Staying at the accommodation in Liverpool Waterfront, on Drury Lane, you will be waking up in the heart of Liverpool One.
Our beautiful, spacious apartment was larger than an average hotel suite and the modern, stylish rooms are fully equipped for self-catering, with a kitchenette stocked with utensils, crockery and cutlery.
We had the most comfortable king-size bed, and a generous double sofa bed so there is space for four to stay in style and comfort. The bathroom’s rainfall shower was a bonus.
As we were next to St James Street station and a few minutes’ walk from Liverpool One shopping and leisure complex (home to over 170 shops and restaurants, cinema and mini-golf course) and a 10-minute drive from Anfield football stadium, we could see and do all we wanted without travelling long distances.
The 212-room aparthotel, which is owned by a Dublin-based group, has its own Staycafé offering light snacks, hot drinks and cooked breakfasts if you don’t want to venture out for food. The breakfast buffet was very impressive and excellent value at £7.95 per adult with kids eating free. The pancake machine was a big hit. The Staycafé operates 24/7 for snacks and light bites, including pizza and pasta. Look out for their special offers, you can’t go wrong with a pizza and draught beer for only £9.95.
If you want to eat out, Staycity is surrounded by restaurants, bars and cafés. The friendly and approachable staff are always on hand to offer insider knowledge to the local area.
One of the lovely receptionists recommended the amazing The Alchemist bar, which was only a one-minute walk away. They were spot on as their creative cocktails were fantastic and showed real flair by their mixologists.
Prices at Staycity Aparthotels Liverpool Waterfront start from £59 for a Studio, excluding breakfast. Book direct on the Staycity website to take advantage of the Stay Sweet loyalty club, which offers members 10% off and a range of exclusive member benefits. Check out www.staycity.com